Hampshire County Council, with support from Eastleigh Borough Council, has stepped in to ensure that Hiltingbury residents will not be left without a weekday bus service.
A subsidy of £55,000 per annum has been agreed (£46,500 coming from Hampshire) for bus operator Xelabus to maintain the existing timetables for Service C3/C4 between Hiltingbury and Chandler's Ford and Service 507 between Valley Park and Toynbee School in Chandler's Ford. The contract will run from 26 May 2013 until 18 October 2015.
The decision follows the two councils' intervention in providing a replacement service between Hiltingbury and Fryern Arcade (service C3/C4) when bus operator, Velvet, withdrew its C1 and C2 commercial bus service in November 2012. Currently, the County and Borough Councils are temporarily funding a replacement service between Hiltingbury and Fryern Arcade, numbered C3/C4, to ensure residents can get to the shops, health services and leisure facilities (the C3/C4 is currently being operated by Xelabus and alternate journeys connect with the operator's X7 service at Fryern Arcade, offering links to and from Eastleigh town centre).
Councillor Mel Kendal, Deputy Leader and Executive Member for Environment and Transport, said: "We have worked with the borough council and consulted local parish councils, Hiltingbury residents and the Three Rivers Rail Partnership to determine the level of service that will best meet the needs of Hiltingbury residents and ensure the community is not left wholly dependent on the private car. With this new contract, we have sought to ensure that the service will provide the means to access work, education and training, retail and health services using public transport.
"We have had to consider bus subsidies against a background of reduced funding from the Government as well as a reduction in the rural bus subsidy grant. Savings made through the re-tendering of subsidised services across the county last year have given a small margin of flexibility in terms of the available funding without which, we would not have been in a position to financially support this service."
Most bus services in Hampshire are provided commercially and are not under the control of the County Council which means that when and where the services run are matters for the bus operator. The County Council subsidises a small proportion (15%) of bus journeys in Hampshire - this is where bus companies are paid to provide services that are not commercially viable and would not otherwise be run. Around 8,700 journeys are made by Hampshire residents each week day on these subsidised services.